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Multi-Tasking is No Easy Task

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In order to answer the question of why mindful practices matter at work, it helps to examine how and why the approach itself has gained such extraordinary attention and momentum in recent years.

Why the focus on mindfulness?

Mindfulness was introduced as a form of “insight meditation” over 2500 years ago, but the overwhelming onslaught of recent research is the driving force behind today’s focus on mindfulness. Results of the studies currently being conducted demonstrate that mindfulness behavior can have a very real, positive effect on reducing stress, high blood pressure, heart disease, substance abuse and more. The benefits of mindfulness cannot be ignored. As a result, the popularity of the concept is exploding.

While the general trend of embracing ‘mindfulness’ in your personal and professional life continues to grow, there are some specific aspects that are especially applicable in the work environment.  For example, in a recent article published by Happify Daily on practicing mindfulness at work, one of the key points raised was in regards to adopting a multi-tasker versus single-tasker approach.

Being mindful at work

Most of us are proud of our ability to multi-task in order to accomplish much as we meet the demands of the modern, frenetic workplace. Many of us will confess that we answer and initiate emails while participating on conference calls, we scan our In Box while sitting in meetings, we check our LinkedIn page to see what’s new, or we make notes regarding an upcoming event while half-listening to the speaker addressing a critical  topic at a current event.

We distract ourselves when we reflect on previous activities we’ve just concluded or when we anticipate the next activity awaiting us. While our mind is racing all over the place, the one thing we are not doing is focusing on the current activity at hand.

It is virtually impossible to multi-task, even if we want to brag that we can accomplish so much all at once. We boast because when we multi-task we feel productive, efficient and effective.

The facts are clear

But in reviewing the results of a wide range of studies on this topic, it has been clearly shown that, in reality, we are less productive, less efficient and much less effective when we try to perform so many initiatives at the same time. Multi-tasking can become addictive as we convince ourselves that we need to juggle many activities just to keep up with the never-ending flow of demands we face in our fast paced world.

Nothing could be further from the truth

I confess – I am a multi-tasker. I try to get as much done in as little time as possible.  But this attitude means that no single task ever gets 100% of my full consideration. That’s a pretty dangerous situation because it also means I am not paying enough attention to support wise decision making.  It is tempting to sneak a peek at incoming emails as I sit listening to a discussion on a conference call. But the minute I do so, I tune out the conversation. How can I offer a legitimate suggestion when I have zoned out on the details being presented?

So for all those of you who think that mindfulness is just a fad, or that it is important but has no value in the workplace, I’d say – think again. The advantages of being present professionally is equally as important as being present in your personal life.

Hardworking and diligent are not synonyms for multi-tasking

Just remember that to be truly productive you need to hone in on one task at a time. Consider the facts and accept the concept that, even if you want to convince yourself that you are getting more done, the distractions are actually having a profoundly negative impact on your capabilities!  

Sally Glick, SobelCo